The Crown: The duality of Queen Elizabeth II

The Late Queen Elizabeth II
(Photo by: Julian Calder)
The Late Queen Elizabeth II (Photo by: Julian Calder)

The late Queen Elizabeth II. That feels weird to say. 

For the past 70 years, the world has had only one British monarch. And, at the end of it all, she became the longest reigning British monarch of all time. With such a long reign, it is understandable that many, including I, attribute a highly influential legacy to the Queen , taking into consideration the many efforts of global diplomacy she pursued and the fact that she preserved and even somewhat modernized the monarchy. But what is her legacy exactly? That question will bring up multiple, controversial answers depending on whom you ask. 

The current rhetorical conflict that exists in the worldwide sphere involves three general opinions. One opinion is that the Queen, and by extension, the monarchy, performed many acts of charity, brought peace to global conflicts, brought stability to the United Kingdom and remained humble, quietly fulfilling her royal duties for the peace of the nation. For women, she perhaps fulfilled the role of being someone to look up to, one who ruled in a world of men. As such, her death should be rightfully mourned, and the impact of her reign celebrated. 

However, the other, opposing opinion, rests on the fact that Elizabeth II was the Queen of England, a nation with a complex, imperialistic history.

As can be historically attested to via multiple records and primary documents, the British Empire colonized many regions of the world, some of which still exist today, such as Bermuda, the British Virgin Islands and Gibraltar. And, as often happens in a world of greedy nations, the people and cultures of these many colonies were brutalized by the British Empire, and according to The Independent, this process often involved the torture of rebels and indigenous dissidents. And if they weren’t killed in the flesh, they were killed in the spirit, their languages often forcibly replaced with English and their religions supplanted with Christianity. As such, many wonder why they should mourn the death of a woman who during her reign led, supported and perpetuated a system that previously ended millions of lives. Oftentimes, this opinion goes together with opinions that voice concerns about how the Queen treated other members of the royal family and with the idea that the monarchy is a useless relic of a bygone era. 

And finally, we come to the last opinion, which is simply this: Who cares? Individuals in this camp may say things like, “Well, she didn’t do much either way, so why does it matter?” Or they may say something like, “As long as it doesn’t affect me, I don’t have an opinion.”

Dear reader, that last opinion is an opinion that, respectfully, shouldn’t exist. If something affects other people, good or bad, it most certainly matters; and people do care. How we perceive the legacy of the deceased British monarch matters because when all is said and done, the late Queen Elizabeth II was a symbol of a system that still affects people. That’s why controversy exists; that’s why people are talking about this. 

But something else that is sometimes not mentioned in these discussions is simply the fact that maybe, just maybe, two truths can exist at the same time. I believe in opinion one, and I also believe in opinion two.

 Yes, Queen Elizabeth contributed to the peace of the United Kingdom and the world. Yes, she was a role model for many women. Yes, she did charitable deeds and was not boastful about her position. 

But I can also acknowledge that, yes, Queen Elizabeth represented a system that brutally colonized millions. Yes, she failed to rectify the situation for those who were hurt. And, yes, she did not speak out against the deeply harmful actions of the institution she represented. According to Howard W. French, in his Foreign Policy article, “Queen Elizabeth II wasn’t innocent of her Empire’s Sins,” he points out: “The late queen incarnated and ably helped sell her nation and its system while never criticizing or apologizing for its past.” 

I believe in the accuracy of those two ideas. What’s left to decide is how the world will balance these two truths.

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